Tom Friedman offered up this unsolicited advice to Israel in yesterday’s New York Times:
Israel, when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not “How much?” It is: “Yes, whatever you want, because you’re our only true friend in the world.”
Really? “Whatever you want”?
Does Friedman literally mean to suggest Israel should suspend its own judgment about its legitimate national security interests because the U.S. has defended its right to exist?
Let’s examine this argument more closely.
First, we have provided military aid to Israel and defended its right to exist as a Jewish state because it was in our national security to do so.
Second, it is the height of arrogance to suggest a sovereign country should have internal policies dictated by the United States. There is a minor problem in this formulation. Israel is a sovereign country with a healthy, functioning democracy that is a model for the region.
It has held elections that resulted in a coalition government in the Knesset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak as defense minister.
This government has offered to suspend construction of new settlements, but not within existing settlements, because such a prohibition on internal construction would, for instance, prevent the erection of new schools or health facilities in neighborhoods that need them.
How is this a threat to peace?
I find it fascinating when liberal commentators who routinely accuse the U.S. of arrogance and imperialism advocate the same when they believe it advances what they want, which in this case is a Middle East peace agreement at any cost.
Perhaps Friedman thinks this makes sense because it is the way the Obama administration apparently does business — the WikiLeaks cache of diplomatic cables reveals various countries were offered millions of dollars in aid in exchange for taking terrorist detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility. But it is absurd to suggest that a U.S. ally should ignore security concerns because it happens to receive aid.
What we have here is yet another example of the persistence of the Bush administration’s policies.
President George W. Bush called for a two-state solution with a Israel within secure borders living side-by-side with a Palestinian state free of terrorism and corruption, but he always made clear that any resulting peace agreement would have to be worked out by the parties themselves, not imposed from outside by the United States.
Obama largely reversed that policy, calling Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House this past September and imposing an arbitrary one-year deadline to reach an agreement.
Obama pressured the Israelis to suspend settlement construction as a good-faith gesture to the Palestinians, and encouraged face-to-face talks between Abbas and Netanyahu. This policy has been a failure.
Now the administration has foresworn the moratorium on settlement expansion and hit the restart button.
As with the recent deal on extending the Bush tax cuts, Iraq, Afghanistan, and closing Gitmo, Obama is finding it more difficult to bend the world to his will than he thought.
The world, it turns out, is not a law school seminar, and brilliance and eloquence alone is insufficient to enact policy. The man elected to obliterate Bush policies is instead presiding over their perpetuation and, thereby, their vindication.
Richly ironic, don’t you think?
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